Iran Ambassador Abbas Badakhshan Zohouri inspecting Syunik border region (Archive photo)

YEREVAN — Following further progress made towards the opening of Armenian-Azerbaijani transport links, a senior Iranian diplomat reaffirmed on Friday his country’s opposition to any exterritorial corridors that would pass through Armenia.

“All that should be done by respecting the internationally recognized borders of the countries,” said Abbas Badakhshan Zohouri, Iran’s ambassador to Armenia. “Iran will support all initiatives corresponding to international law and norms.”

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reportedly reached major understandings on the issue at their May 22 talks in Brussels hosted by European Council President Charles Michel. The latter said they agreed on “principles of border administration, security, land fees but also customs in the context of international transport.”

Aliyev told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan afterwards that he and Pashinyan agreed to open a “Zangezur corridor” that will connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province bordering Iran. Armenian officials denied that, saying that Yerevan and Baku are discussing conventional transport links between the two South Caucasus states.

Aliyev had publicly demanded earlier that people and cargo using the corridor be exempt from Armenian border controls. Armenian leaders rejected his demands.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi backed Yerevan’s position in January, telling Pashinyan that Tehran supports Armenian sovereignty over all roads passing through Armenia. Zohouri reaffirmed that stance when he visited Syunik early this month.

Syunik is the only Armenian province that borders Iran. Some Iranian lawmakers accused Aliyev last fall of seeking to effectively strip Iran of a common border with Armenia.

Zohouri on Friday called for stronger economic ties between Syunik and Iran’s East Azerbaijan province bordering Armenia.

“It is obvious that very close cooperation between the two border provinces can have great advantages,” he told reporters in Yerevan.

The Iranian ambassador also emphasized Russia’s involvement in the efforts to open the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to trade and other cargo shipments. He pointed to the work of a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani task force dealing with practical modalities of the planned transport links.

Zohouri did not mention the European Union’s separate peace efforts criticized by Moscow.

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